OK, what good is rolling?

I realize I might get flamed for asking this, especially in such a blunt way. But what is the real good or purpose of rolling? Is it to practice handling rough or unexpected water conditions? Or is it just to show off? Or is it just to have fun?

I have never done it, but it looks like it would be fun to learn how. But along with learning how to roll, it would be nice to learn WHY to roll. I am new to this, so any constructive comments would be appreciated. Thanks.


Picture this----
You’re out paddling, don’t see a wave sneak up on you and all of a sudden you are trying to grow gills.

Isn’t it better to have multiple ways of becoming an air breather again?

1st roll up.

2nd try again

3rd and yet try again

4th wet exit

5th re-enter and roll

6th re-enter and paddlefloat roll

7th paddlefloat re-entry.

If you don’t know how to roll or re-enter and roll, all of your options boil down to one—wet exit and paddlefloat entry.

And yes, it is fun too.

Sometime you may
involunterily do the first half of a roll. It would be nice to be able to do the second half and get right side up quickly. Facilitates breathing, etc. It also prevents one from having to wet exit, emptying the boat, and doing some form of re-entry, especially if the water is cold. Then such activities can be very uncomfortable or even fatal. Good enough reasons for me :slight_smile:

All of the above
But most importantly it is the safest form of self rescue and the better you are at rolling, the less likely you are to need it.

To sum it up…
to avoid a swim. River swims are always highly dangerous and to be avoided like the plague :slight_smile:

lots of reasons!
1. It helps develop other crucial skills such as braces.

2. It is your best self defense/safety option in a kayak. You are ALWAYS safer in an upright kayak than you are swimming.

3. It cools you down when you’re overheating.

4. Most importantly, it’s FUN! :slight_smile:

self rescue
Rolling is the most efficient and safest form of rescue when you tip over. It can also be seen as an extreme brace. Knowing how to roll will enable you to advance other paddling techniques. My rolling skills have been used while surfing and getting dumped or just to get cooled off on a hot day. It is also an excellent way to get a good workout. The better your rolling becomes the more your paddling skills and oppertunities will grow. I think rolling is great if you have the interest to do so. If you don’t want to learn to roll then just be aware of the conditions you paddle in and the rescues that you can perform.

Picture this…

There is a 12’ pile of wave foam behind you pushing toward a cliff face coming down into the surf 100 ft in front of you. If you tip over you just want to be able to roll up and paddle out of the current, if you exit your kayak and swim you will get pounded on the rocks, swirled around until… impossible to climb out.

(Picture is Dan Crandal at Davenport Ca last fall)

no roll means self imposed limitations
if you only want to paddle on the lake in the summer, when there’s no wind blowing and the water is warm, and only as far from shore as you can swim, then i suppose you don’t need a roll.

if on the other hand you want to extend your range, paddle in the ocean (it IS called “sea kayaking” ya know), manage surf landings, maybe take some trips to colder climes where the water is correspondingly cold, paddle year 'round and etc. — then the “best” self rescue is a roll.

trust me on this, if you push your limits (and you should if you want to advance beyond beginner/novice) then sooner rather than later, you’re going to end up upside down. when that happens would you then rather have to exit your boat, then get back in using a paddle float, then pump it out, and be wet and maybe cold, taking 10 minutes to do so in the process? – OR – would you rather roll right back up in 5 seconds, not have to get wet or cold and pump your boat out, remain dry and therefor warm?

seems obvious eh? roll.


– Last Updated: May-20-05 8:24 PM EST –

1) It's fun
2) It's cool (impress the ladies)
3) It's a useful skill, increasing safety
4) It's a challenge (see #1)

Also, what good is NOT rolling?

Don't get me wrong, I think paddling a kayak is fun without rolling, heck, I even paddle canoes with no expectation of rolling.

i’m the opposite
If it wasn’t for rolling, I don’t think I’d enjoy kayaking nearly as much. Being naturally afraid of water, I find it empowering. Oh and from my experience I don’t think rolling works to well on the ladies. :slight_smile:

EJ says (tongue in cheek):
It is better to die in your boat than to swim. :slight_smile:

I’ve read that 90% of sea
kayaking fataliites would not have occurred had the paddlers known how to roll.

9 more reasons:

  1. Rolling forces you to experience the temperature of the water you’re paddling in, and therefore forces you to dress correctly: for potential immersion.

  2. Rolling allows you to cool down when all that immersion clothing has caused you to overheat.

  3. Rolling gets you back upright in 3 seconds–much faster than re-entering your boat.

  4. Learning a variety of rolls develops kayaking muscles, flexibility, and confidence.

  5. When you’re not scared to capsize you can take on rougher conditions.

  6. You can capsize on purpose for a view of the underwater world (for 10 years now I’ve been hoping to see a lobster walking on the bottom of Boston Harbor…)

  7. You can capsize on purpose before a breaking wave hits you–a useful technique for getting out through large surf.

  8. You can explore the history of the kayak; the Greenland style boats on which modern sea kayaks are based were designed to be rolled.

  9. When you can roll, you become comfortable at every angle to the water. You cease to think of boating as sitting “on” your boat. Your boat, body, and paddle instead become a flexible complex unit that can handle all sorts of waters.

    Sanjay (an admitted rollaholic)

Thanks for the responses
I appreciate all your answers, and I appreciate your patience with me as a beginner. The answers make a lot of sense to me. It is just a little wierd at first. I mean if I learn to ride a bike, I do not learn to fall off it. If I learn to drive a car, I am not taught how to crash it. BUT … I believe proper driving skills should include many, many recoveries from sliding conditions. (Unfortunately, they are usually only briefly mentioned in driving class and rarely practiced).

Okole said, “… especially if the water is cold. Then such activities can be very uncomfortable or even fatal.” I definitely believe that. At a recent demo, I accidentally dumped a P&H Sirius in low 50’s degree water. NOW I know what it is like to try breathing while in cold water. I got my first wet entry instruction - that was cool! No pun intended, it really was nice to learn that. I now see it would have been even nicer to recover without a wet exit.

I just bought an Impex Currituck. I will try rolling in it, but I don’t know if it is considered well suited for that.

Anyway, I see your points now and will definitely need to get into it, if for nothing else other than safety. Thanks again.


Rolling Currituck
Hi Lou,

I am also a beginner and learned to roll my boat last fall in a few pool sessions. Last week at a demo day I rolled every boat I tried out, including a Currituck. This I consider part of the fit and feel test of different boats. The Currituck was not particularly dificult to roll. Actually, just looked at my notes and they say ‘rolls easily’. You picked a very fine boat and one I’m sure you will grow into as your skills improve.

Have a lot of fun!


A capsize is not a crash…

– Last Updated: May-21-05 1:27 AM EST –

..and need not be a bad event in that way. To continue with you driving analogy: Rolling is like those advanced drivers' courses where you REALLY learn to drive - and control the car over a wider range of conditions. The main difference being rolling is not an "advanced" technique. Should be considered a basic skill.

As already noted, the biggest benefits come from being able to confidently handle your kayak at any angle (as designed!). People who cannot roll do not fully explore the secondary stability and can capsize unexpectedly more easily. People who roll have much more control of whether they capsize or not - and if they do it's no big deal. Mostly on purpose and for fun!

Glad you asked - many good responses!

Rolling is fun
This has been stated well by other posters but I’ll say it again.Many years ago when I’d never even been in a kayak I saw a film clip of some guy

doing multiple rolls in what was probably a Dancer or other first generation WW boat and he was in a class 3 river to boot.I was so impressed with his skill that when I got into sea kayaking I learned how.Now I’m 58 years old and a confirmed rollaholic. Last year I took a clinic on high brace turns where you have to lean the boat right up on edge,what fun,but it causes a lot of unintentional capsizes,giving me plenty of opportunity to practise “pretend” combat rolls and braces.(I’ll never be as graceful at it as Derek Hutchison but who cares).Other students gave up trying after a series of wet exits,re-entries and pumpouts.What good are high brace turns?Ultimatly nothing,I could have stayed home and watched TV ,but you guys understand.

Changing the subject a bit,has anyone ever told you that rolling is a waste of time,has no value,just good for showing off etc?

I have had this told to me by two different people,in both cases these are guys that will paddle in the winter with not even a wetsuit,never mind a drysuit.But I’ve never met anyone who could roll say they regreted learning.

I say check out the the bottom every chance you get.



Rolling’s image
"… has anyone ever told you that rolling is a waste of time,has no value,just good for showing off etc?"

No, not ever. And I have never felt that way either. I just saw some people doing it and wondered if they just enjoyed it or if it was required for a certain type of condition (like rough seas). I have been to the http://www.qajaqusa.org/ web site, but it has a definite esoteric feel. I could not see a connection to more average paddlers I see on the water. But still it had me curious. I have a friend near by in Ann Arbor who is big into Greenland style which of course includes rolling. Obviously, I have not had long conversations with him on the subject yet. I guess I wanted several opinions.

At any rate, I did not have a negative feel about it at all. My feelings about it were 1) this looks wierd and fun; and 2) why doesn’t everybody do it?


please take lessons
you will learn a well rounded set of skills if you learn with other folks who can help you get over any challenging situations but more importantly keep you from self-teaching from lack of experience.

Get Derek Hutchinsons video “Beyond the Cockpit”.

I really didn’t learn bracing until I learned how to roll.

Why roll?
Rough water. Surf. Practicing techniques that might cause an inadvertant flip. Rolling is way faster than any wet exit rescue technique. That is good in conditions and makes practicing techniques more fun because you don’t have to take the time to climb back in and pump out.

The best thing learning to roll did for me was to allow me to push my boat handling practice further. With a reliable roll, tipping while taking that balance brace to a limit or seeing just how hard you can lean outside in a turn suddenly became a lot less inconvenient. I also became more apt to play in the surf which is really fun even if I only take my touring boat in small stuff.

I’ve never actually used a roll while touring but I have needed it in surf when a broach went bad and my side surfing skills were lacking.

Ironically I rarely paddle a boat that can be rolled anymore. I mostly paddle surfski and ICF slimline sprint now but in a touring boat a roll is an integral part of really enjoying what the boat is capable of doing for you.